Friday, January 31, 2014

The Red Baron

My 7th grader has wanted to learn more about World War I for a while now.  She mentioned it again recently so I got to work on educating myself.

World War II is easy.  There are many wonderful books, several informative and easy-to-watch documentaries, posters, maps and outlines and grandparents who lived during the time who love to tell stories and share memories.  There are histories told from every side, vivid pictures and Hollywood depictions of WWII.  There was an obvious bad guy(s), lots of heroes and a distinct beginning and ending.

But World War I?  A much different story.  The beginning was muddled, the middle was sloppy and the ending . . . well the ending was disastrous (setting the stage for another war).  There wasn't much of a rhyme or reason to the war and so many people died.

So far, the two most informative books I've read are from the German perspective:  All Quiet on the Western Front and, now, Richthofen The Red Baron.  The number one thing I took away from these two books is that war is ugly, no matter whose side you are on.

I also learned a lot about the history of flight and, more specifically, flight in combat.  The war started only a decade after the Wright brother's first successful flight.  The first war planes were barely that!  They were flying around with cloth wings, guy wires and carefully placed straps.

These guys shot at each other with sporting rifles and pistols.  They would literally fly right next to each other and try to shoot the other guy.  It took them a while to add in the use of the third dimension of height.  As with all war, for good or ill, technology improved drastically and quickly.  By the end of the war they had developed fast, easily maneuvered aircraft and changed the future of air travel.

I am not mechanically inclined.  I'm generally not interested in airplanes.  I am not interested in war games; war history, absolutely, but strategy, weaponry, not at all.  Having said that, I was thoroughly intrigued by this book.  I can't say I enjoyed it because it isn't the kind of book to be enjoyed, but I didn't struggle with reading it and it captivated my interest.  If you would like to learn more about this amazing fighter-pilot, I highly recommend this book.

Monday, January 27, 2014


A dear friend who has children about the same age and range as we have said something today that I loved.

When she goes out with her six children, she gets many of the same comments and questions I get.  Her response to the inevitable "Your hands are full!" is

You think my hands are full, you should see my heart!


Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Good Man

 One of my most treasured possessions is my marriage to this good man.

I was able to get a facial last week.  As I was laying on the comfy bed, in the dimly lit room, with the soft music and nice smells, my heart beat in gratitude for Justin.  He was, technically, the one who paid for the facial.  He was holding down the fort while I was relaxing in that soothing place.  He is the one who wrote this darling poem for my birthday:

This is for those occasional moments
when mother needs a break
those days when the camel's back is loaded
not one more straw it can take

Dad will watch the kids for you
you need not worry about them
don't you dare feel guilty though
as if relaxation were a sin

Enjoy a movie by yourself
and treat yourself to a meal
Take your time and breathe in deep
allowing your sanity to heal

This picture makes me laugh mostly because of Eliza.
It was near the end of the photo shoot.
Dad was being silly and she just couldn't handle it.
He doesn't forget garbage day.
He always turns on my heated seat for me.
He brings me home a soda, candy bar or bundle of flowers at random moments.
He eats whatever I put in front of him.

And he tells me perfect things, like how he thinks I am getting prettier as I get older.
I know.  I am lucky.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Five Mamas

 This poor child has five mamas.  Some of us are better than others.
Some of us decided his perfect baby skin needed to experience a facial.

He disagreed.

At least one of us decided Cinderella is his favorite.

But, when he got the choice, he picked this blue Hot Wheels.
Sweet baby, I do hope you can retain your sweetness whilst defending your agency.
I'll do the best I can at advising your many mothers.

With the exception of your one true mama:  
In that case, I'm afraid I am a lost cause.
I've fallen head over heels and will do whatever you wish.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


My baby was helping.  I could almost hear it in the whiny voice that isn't to arrive for a few more years: "But, Mama, I was helping!"

I had only been home from Costco for a couple of hours.  I had purchased 120 diapers and carefully arranged them in their happy home.

But, I mean, doggone it!  He is a darling!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Love My Sister

I love my sister.  

The end.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Stretched Out Christmas

Our oldest daughter, Eliza, is a selfless girl.  She is always sharing with her sisters, going the extra mile with housework, stepping up to eliminate contention and tending her sisters . . . a lot!  The best part is that she does it with a (mostly) cheerful attitude.  My husband and I wanted to make sure that she knew that we SEE her good works and that we APPRECIATE her.

This year, instead of buying an expensive gadget or toy to get broken or lost, we decided to give her the gift of time.  Every month of the year, we have chosen a fun date--sometimes it will be just with Dad, other times with just Mom and sometimes it will be with both of us.

Last night we went on our first date.  Grandma watched the other children so that all three of us could go.  There is a wonderful Moroccan restaurant in the neighboring city that Justin and I have always loved.  We only go every few years, but it is a treat each time.  We knew this was the first experience we wanted to share with our girl.

The restaurant has a tent-like ceiling, low inlaid tables and cushions for seats.  The food is unusual and delicious.  Eliza is not usually a super daring eater, but she decided to go out on a limb and try something she hadn't had before.  She tried lamb and said it was very good.

For most of the courses, everyone eats out of a common plate and we are not provided with utensils.  
(They wash our hands with warm rose water before and after dinner.)
The experience is half of the fun!  Eliza's favorite part of the meal is the hot herbal tea that they keep coming the whole night.  I think she had ten glasses!

We enjoyed her so much!  It was wonderful to have just her with no siblings to distract our attention from her.  She loves coming from a large family, but every once in a while, something without them sure is nice.

Next month:  Symphony with a guest pianist.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Off Again!

He is off and on his way back to Russia.

Despite our very best intentions, we were up late into the night getting him ready.
Since this was a return trip, he knew the things he most needed to bring with him.  The list included a few random things like Clorox wipes (Scores of teenage boys in a dorm setting?  I mean, ew.) and a book light.
But, based on meals like this,

Actual dinner at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.
Mystery meat and, what is that, a tablespoon of corn, iceberg lettuce and two dices of tomato?
we knew the thing he needed most was food.  Come on, Russia.  These boys are hungry!
Food, even dehydrated or freeze-dried food is heavy.
All night, we arranged and rearranged his luggage to try and make the weight requirements.
As it was, he had to leave home some precious peanut butter--heartbreaking!

As we drove him into the airport this morning, we knew our luggage scale still had him 5 pounds over weight.  We decided to leave the five pounds and see if the airport scale was a little different.
It was.  In fact it was so different that it felt dishonorable to accept the weight.  I nearly disputed their claim, but Isaac reminded me that it was their scale and that we should view it as divine intervention so he would have enough to eat.

Six months is a long time.  A long, long time.
We watched him go through security, (I was afraid the 25 bags of popcorn stuffed in random places in his carry-on luggage would look suspicious) and waited for him to tie his shoes.  
He stood up and looked for us.

I don't have a digital picture of it, but the next moment is ingrained in my memory forever and ever.
As he tugged his luggage down the terminal, he waved and smiled.

That smile and wave seemed to say,
I don't want to let you out of my sight so I'm going to look at you as long as possible.  

But it also said, Don't worry too much, Mom;  
I am doing what I love.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Baptism and Confirmation Day

Our sweet girl turned eight a while ago, but she wanted to wait for her big brother to return from Russia before she was baptized and confirmed.  In addition, her birthday is near the end of the year so all of the other children in her Primary class were baptized before her. 
She could hardly wait!
She was so happy to make the covenant.

Baptism Day
Flowers from Aunt Mollie.
(She's always so good about remembering things like that!)
 A sister and a cousin by her side.  Such pretty girls.

Daddy and his little girl in their white clothing.  
I am blessed by both of them.
We braided her hair to look like a crown.

Several of her cousins, aunts and grandparents came to witness and celebrate her becoming a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At least Mollie was making a nice face.
 Our sweet child with her great-grandmother name-sake.  What a special day.
A BIG thank you to cousin Tia for driving Great-grandma.

After having done this three times, now, I know one thing about the day of a baptism: there will be obstacles.  No matter what.  Something will get in the way.
I decided that I wasn't going to allow any of those bumps to mess up this day for us.
The Spirit permeated the room as covenants were made
and thoughts and music were shared.

I prepared a light luncheon for after the service, knowing several in the party had traveling to do.  It would have been easy to become overwhelmed about the imperfections of the meal, but I decided not to let it get to me.  
Do you know what?  
Not one person asked why there weren't homemade centerpieces or hand-stenciled napkins.  
No one cared that the plates were made by Dixie and that the fancy drink was water from the tap.  

Instead, we were able to focus on our Savior and the miracle of the Atonement 
and upon this darling girl who decided to accept Jesus Christ's offer to save her--as he has all of us.

I am so grateful that I get to be a part of it all.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mega Fail

We joined a home school co-op last autumn.  At the time, they had four one-hour classes and a parent was required to participate in at least 3 of the 4 hours.  We could teach, co-teach, help with clean-up, do the books, etc.  It was a great schedule and the girls and I loved it.

For the months of January and February, the term is shorter so we are have two two-hour classes.  I volunteered to teach a choir/music class and was asked at the last minute to lead a pre-school/Kindergarten class about Beatrix Potter.  We started the day with Peter Rabbit and it went surprisingly well.  Ironically, the choir, about which I had had months to ponder and prepare was a total bomb.  

There were several factors:  First, I didn't know the ages of the students until I began class so I didn't know exactly what to prepare.  Second, the computer that I was relying on for several of the listening activities and games did not work.  Third, my younger two children were very naughty and took full advantage of the fact that Mom could not discipline when she was leading a class.  And fourth, there was one particular child who hi-jacked every single song or activity with a story or inapplicable and (often) misinterpreted Bible verse.

In the middle of an early attempt at harmony and pointing at my jeans, "You know, there is a verse in the Bible that says that a man shouldn't wear woman's clothes and a woman shouldn't wear man's clothes or you will PERISH!  Do you know what PERISH means?  It means you DIE!!"


During another teaching moment, he, pushing his fingers into his ears and squishing up his eyes, declared, "Do you know what an ear fracture is?  It's when you have to listen to music that is too high!"


Apparently angels kill people (by cutting off their heads with swords) to protect God and when Jesus comes again, he is going to take my ring, watch, bracelets and earrings.  


I was flailing about, grasping at straws, falling back on Girl's Camp songs, for crying out loud, and still finally gave up 30 minutes early.  I sent the children to their mothers.  Two hours is just way too long for choir--especially with young children.

While we were cleaning up, gathering children and putting on coats, the president of the co-op let me know that my assistant asked to be in another class.  She had expected it to be more like the Children's Christmas Choir they had at her church.  (Apparently she had never seen the behind-the-scenes of choir rehearsals.)  

Nail in the coffin.

Some days, things just don't work the way you planned.  Oh, well.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Yesterday, my mother gave me this plaque.

"You were supposed to be in your house!" she exclaimed.

Yes, we thought we would be in our house by my birthday--2.5 years after moving into the temporary trailer.  Life doesn't always go the way we plan.  If we were in our house, it would be a true saying.
Right now, it is a mantra, a reminder to be grateful.

We woke up to a breathtakingly beautiful snow.  Thick flakes fell, covering each branch of our towering pine trees.  It is one of my favorite times of year for that very scene.  I felt sure that my Heavenly Father, who knows me better than anyone, set the scene as a gift for my birthday.  I looked out the window and said something like, "I love being here!"

Then, the girls' bedroom door fell off its hinges.

"I love being here, I love being here, I love being here . . ."  Like the affirmation spoken by the Little Engine that Could, whenever something goes wrong with my dwelling, I remind myself that, broken down and falling apart as it is, we are warm and covered; we are sheltered in this often-frustrating shelter.

And we are still ever one step closer on this impossibly tall staircase to living in our home.